Monday, September 26, 2011
Board Game Review - Risk Legacy
Since Risk Legacy was announced, Internet prognosticators have had a field day of bitchery. I have seen completely ignorant responses vary from calling it a disposable game to saying that Risk Legacy is Hasbro's blatant attempt to steal money from stupid fans. These claims are based on the worthless knowledge one gains by using the same website as someone who knows something. As my good friend Sam Jackson likes to say, allow me to retort.
All those people are slack-jawed, stooped-gait, mouth-breathing, drooling idiots who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about in any way, shape or form, and their arguments are based on conjecture and an obsessive-compulsive desire to treat their board games as if they were priceless collectibles, rather than boxes of cardboard that will be worth less than ten dollars by this time next year.
I have played the game eight times now, and can confidently say that Risk Legacy is the most exciting game release since the turn of the century. It changes everything about the way games work and is more fun than I can remember a game being in more than a decade. If I did rate games, it is with no hesitation whatsoever that I would rate Risk Legacy as the number one game I have owned since I started playing games.
I will now attempt to address some of the blatant, knee-jerk ignorance I have read to date. First, I have seen more than one graduate of the Internet School of Self-Importance announce that Risk Legacy was asking us to destroy the game. That is a load of horse manure. You will destroy elements of your game as you play, but for every element that you throw away, you'll add two more. You're not ruining you're game, you're building it, and the decisions you make will shape your world to make it different from every other copy of Risk Legacy. Your board will not just have different names. It will be functionally original to you. When you finish a game of Risk Legacy, you will leave your permanent stamp on the game.
Creation is not a solely additive process. Sometimes, for something new to be created, something else must be destroyed. Consider, if you will, the creation of the Michelangelo's David. This amazing work of art was created from stone, and that stone was removed, chiseled away, and for the purpose of being a useful cornerstone, effectively destroyed. There was considerable destruction in the creation of such a work of art, but in the end, something amazing was created. Risk Legacy might not be a classical sculpture, but after you play it a few times, it will begin to be your own personal creation, and it will take on a bizarre and rugged beauty full of nuance and memories.
Allow me to answer the assclowns who say that Risk Legacy is disposable. After you play Risk Legacy a handful of times, you will be less inclined to dispose of it than any other game you own. You will unfold the board, see the changes you have made to it, and laugh as you recall the events that created this world. You'll remember the enormous missile exchange that altered the world forever, or the hilarity that ensued when you named your first major city. You'll think back on epic battles, sweeping maneuvers, and bold moves that fell short. You would no more dispose of a game like that than you would dispose of your family photo albums.
And the concept that you can only play fifteen times? Completely, irrevocably absurd. After fifteen games, you're probably about finished with the wildly game-altering changes that could occur - but you've still got a copy of Risk that is better than any other Risk ever made. Once you've played fifteen times, what you own is as replayable as any other game you own. You don't complain about Agricola being disposable, do you? And you can't ever change that game! The first time you play Agricola, the rules will be exactly the same as the fifteenth time. You can't say that about Risk Legacy.
A friend was concerned that if he played Risk Legacy with me, I would have a decided advantage because I had already experienced all the wild twists and turns the game has to offer. This concern was wrong on so many levels that it will take a couple paragraphs to answer them all. First, of course I'm at an advantage. The same friend is an expert at another game we both enjoy, and he wins three out of four times because he knows the game better. Nobody complains that Puerto Rico is flawed because the guy who has played fifty times always beats the new people.
Second, when the big events occur and new envelopes are opened, the sweeping changes affect everyone at the same time. Sure, I could attempt to position myself to take advantage of a change I know is coming, but not only would that probably hurt me more than it helped, it would also be incredibly difficult to engineer on my own. To add to that, there's no guarantee that the upcoming change will actually be in my favor. There's every possibility that decisions made in the spur of the moment could alter the world and hamstring me for every game from then on. It happens. And it's awesome.
Third, consider a movie with a surprise twist that nobody saw coming. Who would you rather be, the guy who has seen the movie a dozen times and knows exactly what to expect, or the guy who is about to have his jaw hit the floor? Me, I would rather be the one surprised. I would rather be the one discovering amazing new developments in Risk Legacy, the one who has no idea what's in the hidden box and who gets to be delighted at the brilliantly unfolding story.
So that's my answer for all the jackanapes. For those of you who haven't made snap decisions with virtually no information available, I'll go ahead and tell you how this wild ride actually works. Don't worry, I won't spoil any of the surprises.
Risk Legacy operates on the theory that every game you play should affect the games that come after it. Decisions you make in one game will irrevocably change the game from then on. Snap decisions made for short-term gain will create permanent alterations that you may regret for the next twenty times you play. And whatever changes occur, they'll happen because of decisions you made. This isn't just randomly changing. It's changing because you changed it. When you play Risk Legacy, you've got a stake in it.
There are lots of ways that this works. The most notable example is that the winner of each game will sign the board, often with a nickname or catch phrase. The winner gets a reward for winning, too, which could be anything from founding a big city or naming a continent to destroying a territory card or erasing changes that were made before. Then the losers get their rewards, which are basically just smaller cities or making some territories more valuable.
But that's not the only way the game changes. When certain events occur, like a player getting eliminated or nine minor cities being founded, you open up an envelope that completely changes the game. I told you I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say that once you open an envelope, your game will change forever. And since there are six envelopes in the box, that's six chances for your game to make a wild left turn that makes everyone learn the game all over again.
You'll change the game as you play, too. You might be under attack and decide to create a bunker - but that bunker is permanent, and next game, someone else might be in there. Or you might need a territory badly enough that you inflict an ammo shortage on the land, only to find out next game that you just can't hold that territory long enough to get your continent bonus because your own people can't get enough bullets.
As the game goes on, more and more developments will occur. The map will change. The factions will change. The rules of the game will change. And every time there's a change, Risk Legacy becomes more fun. This is why it's so ridiculous to read complaints about destroying the game - after five or six games, you'll have so much more game than you started with.
Now, the biggest complaint I've ever had about Risk in general is the time investment. Even the new Risk, with objectives, still take a while. And I'm not going to pretend that Risk Legacy will never go long, especially if nobody is particularly aggressive. But this is the first Risk I've played where I've ever finished inside 45 minutes, and it's very rare to see one go over an hour and a half.
The reason you can finish a game so quickly is because the winning conditions are different than they've been before. To win the game, you need four victory points. You get one point for each HQ you control (including your own), and if you haven't won the game before, you get one handed to you for free, just for showing up. This means that in a game with all new people, you're halfway to the win before you put down your first recruit. And that makes the game go pretty darn fast.
Of course, after a while, most people will have a win under their belts, and so you would think the game would slow down. However, as the game changes, more ways to earn victory points will be available. Once again, I can't tell you what they are, but suffice to say, they're a lot of fun, and add new dimensions to the way you play. They also keep that break-neck pace that makes Risk Legacy both the fastest version of Risk and the most fun I've had playing a board game in as long as I can remember.
I could keep going, and regale you with stories of sudden assaults, surprise comebacks, desperate gambits and legendary failures. But you don't need to hear about my stories. You need to pick up a copy of Risk Legacy, gather some friends, and create your own amazing tales. Don't worry about the resale value of your game. Don't get worked up about permanently changing things. Relax, roll some dice, laugh your ass off and kill a whole bunch of people. Once you start playing Risk Legacy, you'll be forced to agree that this is not just a whole new way to enjoy a game. This is the most fun you'll have for a really long time.
Reinvents board gaming
Every decision has the potential to change the game forever
An exciting, thrill-packed ride
Exceptionally impressive production
Ridiculously well tested
Not out until November
You'll have to wait to get your hands on Risk Legacy, but believe me, the wait will be worth it. You're going to have more fun with this game than you even thought was possible.
Posted by Matt Drake at 7:30 AM